True War Story

When I was little, my teacher usually told us a story about a hero during the Vietnam war against France. The story goes like this: “There was a kid name Le Van Tam. He joined the Viet army when he was very young. On January 1st, 1946, somehow, he got inside a French gas station. He poured gasoline all over his body, burnt himself, and jumped into the closest gasoline container. The entire gas station was destroyed along with the sacrificed young boy.” When we heard this heoric story, we were so touched that we did not even question its authenticity, we believed that it was a true war story right away. Later on, after moving to America, I learned that the hero Le Van Tam has never existed. He was created by the Minister of  War Propaganda to encourage the people to fight against France.

And to think about it, the story makes absolutely no sense. First of all, how could a kid get through the security guards in order to be inside the gas station without any help. We only see this in Hollywood movies. Second, after burning himself, how could he still be strong enough to run to one of the gasoline container to make the explosion. Remember, he was just a kid. This is scientifically incorrect. And yet, Vietnamese people still believe in it. I believed in it. I thought it was a true war story because it had a great plot, a heroic character… So we believe it without any doubts. This story further convinces me about O’Brien’s argument about a true war story: whenever you hear about a heroic war story, don’t believe it.

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